Until the 1850s, Yokohama, located about 30 km southwest of Edo (Tokyo), on Tokyo Bay, was an insignificant fishing town. However, in 1853, when the American Commodore Mathew Perry arrived with his fleet nearby, demanding that Japan abandon its policy of isolation (Sakoku) and open itself to foreign trade, Yokohama’s fate was transformed. When negotiating with the Americans over which ports to open to outsiders, Yokohama was selected as the one of those trading centres, oweing to its excellent natural harbour and its proximity to Edo.
The port of Yokohama was officially opened to foreigners on June 2, 1859, and almost overnight became home to the largest foreign concession in Japan, as well as the country’s busiest commercial harbour. The strong foreign influences saw that Yokohama became the first place where Western technologies and customs were adopted in Japan, with profound socio-economic ramifications. It had Japan’s first Chinatown (1859); the first English-language newspaper (1861), the first European-style sports venues (1860s); the first confectionery and beer brewery (1865), the first daily newspaper (1870), the first gas-powered streetlamps (1870s), the first railway station (1872), and the first electric power plant (1882).
By 1885, when the present map was made, Yokohama was by far and away Japan’s most cosmopolitan and modern city, featuring many amenities that were not yet found in many European or American cities. It became known worldwide as an exciting nexus of cross-cultural exchange, immortalized in literature, notably in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).
Yokohama’s role as Japan’s ‘Window to the World’ spawned a very strong local art and print culture scene. Notably, the city was home to Utagawa Sadahide (1807 – c. 1878/9), one of Japan’s most famous artists whose depictions of Westerns in Japan are of immense documentary value. It was also an important centre of popular prints and cartography, which the late Shogunate and Meiji Era maps of the Yokohama becoming some of the most iconic urban images in Japanese history.
The present map of Yokohama was published locally by Tomigorō Ozaki (1822- 1893), who was one of the city’s leading mapmakers during the mid-Meiji era. He and his successors issued various maps of Yokohama between 1878 and 1898. The present map is a revised issue of an edition first published in 1880.
The beautifully designed and resplendently colourful map showcases all Yokohama about a generation after the port was opened to foreigners, during the middle of a decade when it experienced rapid growth, with its population growing from 72,630 in 1880 and 132,627 in 1890. Featuring toponomy in Japanese and, in some cases (imperfect) English, it has a roughly southwestern orientation, with the harbour shown plied by both Western steamships and traditional Japanese sailing vessels. In the centre, is the semi-circular manmade island called the Kannai (meaning ‘inside the barrier’), upon which, on its leftward side, shaded in yellow, is the foreign concession, whose residents enjoyed extraterritorial legal privileges both inside and outside of their compounds. On the righthand side of the Kannai is the Japanese commercial hub. To the lower right, is the ‘Station Railways Train’, being Japan’s oldest railway station, built in 1872, to serve the country’s first railroad, running up to Tokyo’s Shinagawa and Shinbashi Districts.
In the upper left, upon the highlands overlooking the harbour, is the Yamati District, called ‘The Bluff’ by foreigners, featuring neighbourhoods that were home to the wealthiest foreigners, as well as consular residences. An inset details the ‘Race Course’, the horse racing track, established in 1862, that was the social highlight of the foreign community.
In the lower left corner are the flags of 20 countries that regularly traded out of Yokohama, while the various other registers that surround the map feature a list of block names, distance charts, a preface and a legend.
The map is scarce; we can trace institutional examples of the present 1885 edition held by 6 libraires, including the Nichibun – International Research Center for Japanese Studies; Yokohama City Central Library; Staatsbiliothek zu Berlin; University of California – Berkeley; Kyoto University Faculty of Agriculture Library; and the Kanagawa University Library. Moreover, examples only seldom appear on the market.
References: Nichibun – International Research Center for Japanese Studies: YG/7/GC76/Yo.; Yokohama City Central Library: map007; Staatsbiliothek zu Berlin: Kart 8794; University of California – Berkeley: East Asian Rare Ha 15; Kyoto University Faculty of Agriculture Library; Kanagawa University Library; OCLC: 1020938838, 21808573.